After a slight delay due to rain on our previously planned day, the 5th Annual Children’s Science Fair finally took place on Wednesday, May 9th. Seventy children and 30 counselors from three different group homes arrived eager to share in the day at the Virginia Robinson Gardens. In keeping with the Children’s Program and its goal to educate children about the benefits of the garden, the theme this year was “Eat Green- Fun Filled Facts About Healthy Eating!”
As the children arrived in the morning, a new friend to Robinson Gardens welcomed them. Rose Nielsen and her therapy dog, Blondie the Golden Retriever, were graciously on hand to spend the day with the children. As part of their dedication to helping others, Rose and Blondie have been visiting Children’s Hospital since 2014 and have undoubtedly brought smiles to the faces of many. The children loved having Blondie to welcome them, and Blondie seemed perfectly happy to receive all of the children’s attention.
As the tours began, the children were broken up into groups along with their counselors, and were escorted through the many gardens within the estate. With the assistance of our friendly volunteers and knowledgeable docents, the children were introduced to the history, artifacts, and the unusual plants that Virginia and Harry collected over their many years of travel. Also, to continue in a tradition started last year, garden gnomes were hidden throughout the landscape for the children to find. Sounds of delight were heard as the children discovered the carefully hidden “little green men.”
As the children entered the Italian Terrace, they listened to the sounds of the garden. They marveled at the sound of the musical staircase as the water whispered down the stairs. They saw hummingbirds and insects busy in the bougainvillea and listened carefully for the sound of their wings. They learned about Neptune as they wandered past his fountain while snacking on granola bars and apples. As part of their “fun facts,” they learned about the benefit of fiber in apples and that the old saying “An apple a day will keep the doctor away” is indeed true.
As they entered the Kitchen Garden, planter beds filled with vegetables and herbs surrounded the children. Our Grounds Caretaker, Joshua Johnston, taught the children the value of eating fresh food, the importance of worms in the soil and the concept of “composting.” With the hens gone until June, Josh was able to show the kids the newly restored chicken coup affectionately named the “Poulet Palace.” He shared another “fun fact” about eggs, explaining to the children that by placing an egg in a container of water, they could determine if it was safe to eat. If it floats, it is bad. If it sinks, it is fit to eat!
As the groups entered the King Palm Forest, they began to experience the change in temperature. Looking up at the 80 foot Palms and the towering Banyan trees, the children quickly felt the cool air and began to understand that there are obvious changes within the shaded sub climate. They noticed the dense foliage, thick with ferns and dappled with mounds of blooming Clivia. They found a carefully hidden garden gnome sitting at the center of a far off Cycad. At the end of the King Palm Forest, magician David DeVito stood waiting in the wings to do magic tricks for all of the unsuspecting children. They were amazed by Magic Dave’s ability to make things disappear!
Next, the groups ventured out of the Palm Forest and onto the Great Lawn. The kids and their counselors were invited to play hula hoop, ping pong, and cornhole, while others were escorted into the Pool Pavilion to pick a movie poster to take home. The posters were generously donated by Universal AMC CityWalk and brought every year by Marc Dyson.
After a busy morning, it was time for lunch. This year, the Original Kabob Factory served up a healthy kabob selection, complete with hummus, basmati rice, and vegetables while the D.J. played tunes in the background. The Friends volunteers served fruit and doughnuts for dessert. The kids continued to play and dance on the tennis court, and enjoyed a game of “freeze dance.”
Next, it was time for the Science Show. Professor Egghead and his amazing interactive science experiments captivated the audience as they watched him demonstrate how chemical reactions occur in the body by using color-changing liquids. He used dry ice to show the solid state of CO2 and created a beautiful mist by adding water, showing the different states of gas molecules. The children were each given their own “mini lab” and made snow out of super absorbing polymers, thereby learning the importance of absorption.
As the children got ready to leave, they were each given a fabulous duffle bag, which was generously donated, thanks to Patti Reinstein and Lillian Vernon. The duffle bags were filled with school supplies, dictionaries, coloring books, and colored pencils, thanks to the Friends of Robinson Gardens. Barbie Dolls, generously donated by Ellisa Bregman, were placed in the young girls’ bags. Goodbyes and thank-yous were sounded by all, and it was truly a wonderful day for the children and their counselors. With the spirit of Virginia Robinson in mind, and with the support and generosity of all of our friends at Robinson Gardens, we are grateful to have the opportunity to make this day so special, and to share this lovely estate with so many deserving children.
Post by Patty Elias
Friends of Robinson Gardens Board Member
Photos by Caroline Scott
Digital Communications Specialist